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Pacific administrator seriously injured in crash

Faulty brakes are cited in last Tuesday's head-on collision that sent Jan Stricklin and her elderly parents to a Portland hospital

A Pacific University employee and her elderly parents were among the people injured in a four-vehicle crash last week on Cornelius Pass Road.

Jan Stricklin, the interim vice president of university relations, was driving a minivan late in the afternoon Tuesday, March 27, when a logging truck, carrying its empty trailer, turned into her lane and hit her vehicle head-on.

The collision sent Stricklin, 57, of Hillsboro, to Legacy Emanuel Hospital with serious injuries. She was still in the hospital Tuesday morning, her condition upgraded to 'good,' according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Her parents - June and Alvin Stricklin, 84 and 85, respectively, of Cornelius - were also transported to Emanuel. They, too, remained in the hospital Tuesday morning, she in 'serious' condition and he in 'fair' condition, the spokeswoman said.

A third passenger, whose name has not been released by police, was uninjured in the accident.

The minivan, a 2002 Chevrolet Venture, was totaled.

University officials volunteered no additional information as to the extent of Jan Stricklin's injuries.

The driver of the logging truck, 46-year-old Todd McElhaney of St. Helens, was eastbound on Cornelius Pass Road, a winding road with tight corners. He came upon a line of six cars stopped in the road, the lead car waiting to make a left.

McElhaney locked the brakes, said Lt. Jason Gates of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, but was apparently going too fast to stop.

At that point, Gates said, McElhaney had to make a snap judgment: veer right off the road and down a steep incline, go straight into the line of cars, or veer left and hope to miss oncoming traffic. He chose option number 3.

'At the time, with the decision he had to make, it seemed to be the lesser of three evils,' Gates said.

No charges have been filed against McElhaney, but an investigation into the matter continues.

As required by law when a crash involves a commercial vehicle, investigators took blood and urine samples from McElhaney to see if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. But Gates said the driver showed no signs of intoxication and was cooperative.

'He was very shaken up over the whole thing,' Gates said.

An investigation by the Oregon Department of Transportation did find that two of the truck's six brakes were not fully functioning - a violation that would have grounded the truck until it could be repaired if police had stopped the truck and inspected it.

However, Gates said the outcome would have been no different had the brakes been fixed, because they performed well enough to lock up the wheels. He said four skid marks could be seen on the road.

'At this time, there doesn't appear to be anything criminal,' Gates said.

Also damaged in the accident were two of the vehicles that had been waiting in the line of six cars. The drivers of each were treated for minor injuries at Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland and released.

Jan Stricklin joined the Pacific University staff in 2001 and became interim vice president of university relations in July 2006 after Tim O'Malley resigned.

Linda Saari, Pacific's director of Public Affairs, called Stricklin 'a wonderful person' and a 'joy to work with.

'It was a tragic traffic accident,' Saari said.

Cards can be sent to Stricklin at the office of University Relations, Pacific University, Box 670, 2043 College Way, Forest Grove, Ore., 97116.